180 Years After Malvern Tragedy, 5 Irish Reburied in Bala Cynwyd
Hundreds attended the memorial service for the immigrant rail workers who died at "Duffy's Cut".
One hundred eighty years after dozens of Irish immigrants died and were buried en masse at the Duffy's Cut railroad construction site in Malvern, hundreds of Irish and Americans paid their respects Friday in Bala Cynwyd as five of the victims were reburied and all were memorialized.
Researchers who excavated the burial site for the past eight years believe that though a cholera outbreak was blamed in 1832 when the workers died, at least some were murdered.
Remains of a sixth worker were identified and taken to Ireland for burial. The other 51 known dead are unreachable, in a mass grave under Amtrak train tracks.
"Today, we are poignantly reminded that every life is precious and deserving of every bit of dignity we can provide," said Pete Hoskins, president of West Laurel Hill Cemetery, where five caskets—four men and one woman—were buried together under a monument explaining the circumstances of their (and their colleagues') deaths.
Kevin Conmy, Ireland's deputy ambassador to the United States, told those assembled that "this was a story that needed to be told, and you have done them justice in telling it."
Immaculata president Sister Pat Fadden told the crowd, "This is a very special day, a bittersweet day. ... We're pleased that so many of you were able to join us."
Francee Biondi's seventh-grade class from St. Patrick School in Malvern attended the hour-long ceremony.
"Being in Malvern, the kids have always been at least slightly aware of Duffy's Cut," Biondi said. Immaculata University professor William Watson, who spearheaded the research and excavation with his brother Frank Watson, talked to the class in November and provided more details, the teacher added.
On Friday, William Watson told the crowd, "My goals from the beginning were to get them properly remembered and to get them reburied, which seemed like a pipe dream."
"At each stage, we were met with more mysteries," Frank Watson said.